Sunday, September 30, 2018

Owner's Manual for Putters - Face Balanced Mallet

Several years ago, I was at a golf show wandering the aisles. There was a company promoting a golf swing technique, along with golf clubs that matched the swing strategy. As I listened to the owner of the company and his sales pitch, he made a comment that I have remembered ever since. He said, “We don’t swing golf clubs the way they were designed to be used.” I am in complete agreement, but between regulation and tradition we have what we use. As I continue to with this series of blogs I keep thinking about the comment and particularly how it applies to putting. After many years of work searching for answers, I have reached the conclusion that more than in full swing, matching design to movement has a critical influence on successful putting.

In our previous discussions we have focused on putters when balanced at a fixed point on the shaft the toe of the putter hangs below the heel. The degree the face angles toward the ground is called toe hang. When the face is parallel to the ground - as shown below left - it is commonly referred to as face balanced. As we continue to measure strokes we find the amount of toe hang a putter has can influence the speed of face rotation at impact. To improve a player’s feel in their stroke we find it beneficial to match this to the amount required by set up. Basically, the more rotation required the more we look for the face to hang toward vertical.

Easily the best-selling putter design of the past 20 years is the face balanced mallet. There are several reasons this appeals to golfers who struggle with their strokes. Face balanced promotes a low rotation pattern. We have been constantly told that rotation is bad so low rotation must be better. In addition, with a mallet, the more you can move the center of gravity away from the face, the more stable the putter is at impact on off center strikes. With this combination two things happen, first, there is less feeling of torque in your hands with an off-center strike. Also, more energy is transferred to the ball when you miss the sweet-spot. Sounds pretty good, right? More forgiving and better feel, what else could a player want? The problem we see with the one style fits all mentality happens when your set up promotes a flatter stroke plane and therefore a bigger arc. 

This pattern requires the toe of the club to move faster than the heel to maintain a consistent position to the arc. This "rotation" is a function of the distance from the ball and the putter moving on a tilted plane, and not a function of your hands! When you have an arc that requires the toe to move faster and it doesn't, this conflict of rotational requirement and rotational putter value produces a twisting feeling in your hands. Typically, a player will fight this feeling by using more grip pressure.  For many this tension can make judging distance more difficult.  When grip pressure doesn’t work, we see players result to more drastic measures. Anchored techniques were common back in the day. With the new rules we see non-traditional hand placement like the claw/pencil grip as the norm. It becomes a vicious cycle as the more the putter twists the harder it is to find the center of the putter and the more you need a “forgiving putter”.  Rather than continue to fight this battle if you prefer a face balanced mallet we suggest you use it with the Profile that best fits.

In the Burnt Edge System, the lowest rotational requirement is found with a Profile 3. This is a player who uses a shorter putter in length, bends more from the hips to get his eyes directly over the ball. They tend to play the ball more forward in their stance and hold the putter square with the back of their left hand at impact. Their shoulder alignment is square to slightly open. The same with their feet. With this type of putter open is preferable to closed or perfectly square. The more the path moves to the right, the more the toe of the putter must release or rotate to find square. Because the putter fights a release we see the lead hand in combination with a shoulder rotation as the source and sequence of movement. No trail hand effort, face balanced mallets do not work well when you try to hit the ball with the trail hand. Speed control is better produced by tempo and shoulder rotation. 
P.S. If you currently use a face balanced mallet and are struggling. Try our suggestion, move closer to it, move the ball forward and open your stance. The results may surprise you.